An Inauguration Highlight Made in China

Newseum


Inaugurations bring out the hokey in the nation’s capital. Every day, the planners of the inauguration announce an official inauguration this or that: The official menu of the inauguration lunch, the official inauguration gifts of the American public to the president and vice president, and so on. There is much self-congratulatory celebration about US democracy, some justified, some perhaps a tad over-the-top. But one highlight of this days-long PrezFest is happening at night, just a few blocks from the Capitol steps where President Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second term on Monday. At the Newseum, the work of Ai Weiwei, the politically-minded Chinese artist (and dissident), is being projected onto the exterior of the museum, atop its permanent ten-story-high rendition of the First Amendment.

The art of Ai Weiwei, who helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is currently being featured in a marvelous and provocative retrospective at the Hirshhorn museum on the National Mall. With his art—sculpture, photography, and other media—Ai Weiwei has operated as a sharp social and political critic, often examining the abuse of power in China and elsewhere. As a payback, he has been detained, roughed up, and placed under surveillance by Chinese authorities—which has motivated him to produce more compelling art. (The Chinese government prohibited him from attending the opening of this exhibit in Washington.) “I’m just an undercover artist in the disguise of a dissident,” he says.

Well, this undercover artist, who maintains that artists ought to challenge “the will of the times,” has a featured spot in the run-up to this celebration of the American political system.

 
 

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.